29 January 2013
Masters of Cheese Highlight: Nicole Van Bebber
Real Food Co. San Francisco
Nicole van Bebber is our newest "Master of Cheese" for this week's blog post! After we met at a local food show here in San Francisco, Nicole was kind enough to offer her knowledge for an interview. This "newbie" sure knows her stuff! Check out what she had to say:
Rumiano Cheese Co: What is your background? How long have you been in the cheese business?
Nicole Van Bebber: I'm a real newbie when it comes to the world of cheese—I've been cutting cheese for a little over a year and buying and merchandising for about six months.
RCC: When buying cheese, what are the most important aspects that you look for?
NVB: There are many factors that play into deciding which new cheeses to bring into the store. In most cases, I lean towards organic, farmstead and hormone-free when possible. I also try to go for cheeses that will be interesting and bring diversity to customers and as well as satisfying their broad cheese needs.
RCC: What are some of the trends you see happening in today's cheese market?
NVB: In San Francisco we have seen a huge interest in supporting the growing American cheese industry, particularly the local cheese makers of the Bay Area and California as a whole.
RCC: What advice do you have for people when selecting cheese?
NVB: I encourage everyone to ask their cheesemonger for samples and recommendations when it comes to trying new cheeses. The cheesemonger should know what is ripe and good to go at any given time. That will help the customer to try the cheese when it's at its best and get a true sense of how they like it.
I also encourage people to try new flavors and styles they haven't tried before. For instance, if customers aren't typically huge fans of goat milk in traditional goat cheeses like chevre, I suggest they try goat milk in a different context-- like a cheddar or gouda.
RCC: What is your favorite cheese? Any particular reason why?
NVB: There are few things I love more than a properly ripened Camembert. I love the complexity of flavors, as well as the rustic old world feel that comes with it. If you are able to find a ripe and raw Camembert, you're in for a real treat.
RCC: Is there any advice you would like to give about cheese and what it takes to be a "Master of Cheese?"
NVB: I have found that I am able to make the most of my experiences by being open-minded and bold when trying new things and expanding my knowledge of cheese. I would suggest that to anyone—whether it be a customer simply looking for something to put in their pasta dish or a tenured Master of Cheese.